Nadja - Touched (Alien8 Recordings CD)
I rarely listen to albums recreationally anymore, as horrible as that may sound. Usually when I listen to music it's for this site, or to investigate a new download, or what have you. Lately though I just don't have enough free time to revisit past favorites. Enter "Touched", the zillionth album from Aidan Baker's Nadja (now a duo with Leah Buckareff on bass/vocals) and their second for Alien8 Recordings. I haven't stopped playing it since I first put it on a few nights ago - I was actually supposed to review it last night but I fell asleep listening to it, so I was able to squeeze in a few more half-plays tonight. Despite being a fan of what I've heard, I've only casually kept up with Nadja's voluminous output, and I even missed their last Alien8 disc ("Truth Brcomes Death") so forgive me for being slightly behind the curve. I'm mega-glad I caught this one though.
With the addition of Buckareff, Baker appears to have refined (riffined? Sorry) his vision of doom metal into a whole 'nother realm, the kind of realm nobody else has even got on their maps, let alone presently inhabits. With "Touched", the duo have hit the perfect meld of punishing doom/sludge six-string fuzz, endless militant drum machine bludgeon, and chest-swelling shoegaze/post-rock/ambient-influenced catharsis. Nowhere is this better evidenced than on the tremendous second track "Stays Demons", pairing up Baker's mumbled poetry and Buckareff's low-end drizzle with effect-heavy guitar work that absolutely soars through the ears. About the only contemporary comparison one can draw would be with Justin Broadrick (clearly a major influence on Baker)'s Jesu project, but I have to say that anything on "Touched" out-duels Broadrick's current game in all facets. I like Jesu, but "Touched" already sounds like the album Broadrick's hoping to create with that outfit.
On a track like "Incubation/Metamorphosis", Nadja even nod (and nod and nod and nod) in the direction of Skullflower circa "Infinityland" - beautifully damaged riffs piled to toppling heights over perpetually devastating drum machine caterwaul. Baker's voice ends up almost completely buried beneath the din, reciting evocative lines like "I burst out of the ends of your fingers/like a thousand blind larvae..." - total perfection. The opening track "Mutagen" is as dominating a salvo as I've ever heard from the Nadja banner: Baker drives a monstrously fuzzy/blurred riff home for 13-ish minutes as the rhythm section swirls up a down-trodden miasma of sludge only to pour it down your throat, like guzzling spoiled honey - and honey don't spoil. "Flowers of Flesh", the last lengthy track before the brief closing coda, is the most formless action of the whole LP and still remains a gloriously hypnotic menace, mutant vocals (Baker's and Buckareff's) stick and pull apart in the best post-post-metal scream I can name since, uh, maybe the time when Boris dropped "Flood" so many moons ago.
If you couldn't tell by now, I really can't say enough positive things about "Touched". I'm thinkin', though - when was the last time you ever heard such snarling aggression and heaven-sent gorgeousness and gorgeosity from the same genre that regularly births bands like Prostitute Disfigurement? Think of the absolute best moments of corruption from early Godflesh, Cathedral, and Sleep sides mixed in with the purities distilled from modern-day head-hangers ala Pelican, the Angelic Process, and Isis...and you're gone, brother. And if this is where the 21st century is taken us, I'm gone as gone as you. I haven't heard probably even a quarter of Nadja's output (and this is actually a totally re-worked/re-recorded/revised version of a 2002 album of the same name), but this surely tops em all along with any other doom/sludge/stoner/whatever-metal schmozz you're liable to run into in the remainder of the year.
Stays Demons (excerpt)